It’s that annual cultural, commercial, and religious celebration of love which requires us to offer a sacrifice of flowers, candy, cards, and gifts to our special someone — Valentines Day is upon us, once again.
Love is in the air, and love is like the air — it’s no big deal, unless we’re not getting any, right? But what is love, really? It’s a question as old as humanity, a question which has a variety of answers.
In 1993, musical artist Haddaway also asked “What is Love?” but he never offered an answer. Instead, he pleaded: “Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” Oh, whoa, I guess he should have learned from all the other bands who covered “Love Hurts.” Nazareth tried to tell him, so did the others. Maybe he was doing it wrong.
Science offers evidence that love is a drug, a chemical mixture of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin our brains release to make our hearts go pitter-patter when we see someone we like. I also read this chemical cocktail might actually cause us to go temporarily crazy in love.
Love is such a strong emotion, it’s almost a force of nature. In the 1920s, Albert Einstein told Thomas Morgan, a geneticist, that love could not be explained by science because “the same trick does not work twice.” Einstein asked Morgan how he could ever explain something as important a biological phenomenon as first love, in terms of chemistry and physics. Einstein also said, “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” Get it?
If you were to read about the psychology of love, you might find that love can be broken into components or sections. We all have physical, emotional, and mental needs that need to be met, so you would likely read how love requires us to satisfy these needs with passion, intimacy, and possibly the most important, commitment.
In reading about love, you might also discover how we love by choice, by charity, by family and by desire.
Love by choice is unconditional love. You make a decision to love someone and you commit to it. It’s the devotion you would show to your spouse or children. It’s when you give someone your heart.
Love by charity is displayed through compassion, or what some might call “brotherly love.” Random acts of kindness or helping someone in need are perfect examples of loving by charity.
Love by family is pretty obvious, but it also includes good friends. These are the people you know the best or are connected to. I like to tell people my friends are the family I picked.
Love by desire is when the focus is on intimacy (or maybe flowers and chocolates), but it may or may not be long-lasting love without deliberate commitment. It’s usually more lust than anything.
My favorite definition of love, though, is almost cliche. In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 tells us love is patient and love is kind. It says that love doesn’t envy or boast and isn’t proud. Love doesn’t dishonor others and love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs.
I think this is exactly what love is and should be.
I actually take every line of this passage to heart and I get excited by the possibility to be able to love people without any expectation of return. Love is a gift, one I can give freely and it doesn’t cost me a dime. I don’t have to keep score or worry that I’ve lost something, because there’s always more to give and I’m happy to share.
However you do it, however you view it, all you need is love. And maybe a valentine.
Robert Critser, who lives in Burlington and is an assistant manager at the West Burlington Walmart Supercenter, writes a freelance column for The Hawk Eye.